Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A reminder of the Link Between Climate Change Solutions and Health Care

A reminder that global warming isn't the only thing that will be solved by clean energy, clean vehicles and other such solutions.

Scaling back our use of fossil fuels will also curtail the types of expensive health problems described in this Contra Costa Times article:

In some hardscrabble East Bay neighborhoods, people die of heart disease and cancer at three times the rates found just a few miles away in more well-to-do communities.

Children living near busy freeways in Oakland are hospitalized for asthma at 12 times the rate of young people in Lafayette's wooded housing tracts.

Examining asthma rates reveals a stunning pattern. By far, the most hospitalizations occur in low-income communities near the Port of Oakland, along busy Interstate 880 in East and West Oakland, and the convergence of freeways near North Oakland and Emeryville.

This North Oakland ZIP code has the East Bay's second-highest asthma hospitalization rate. Highway 24 and Interstates 580 and 80 pass close by. Nearly 200,000 cars and trucks use the I-80/I-580 interchange each day.

"Where they live, every day there is soot on the window sills," Benson said. Soot is also in the air that neighborhood children take into their lungs.

Benson, who has analyzed asthma statistics for years, has noticed a link with low-income communities.

West Oakland youths breathe in diesel exhaust from trucks, trains and ships at the port, and the aging homes near the waterfront become magnets for mold, she said.

John sees Benson once a month to help control his asthma. Because his mother does not own a car, they ride three buses to reach the clinic. John misses a day of school each time, and his mother takes a day off from her job providing home care for the elderly.

The diesel exhaust has led to a cancer risk in West Oakland that is three times higher than the Bay Area average, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District told federal officials in September.

The sentence that I bold-faced is a reminder of the far-reaching indirect consequences of this pollution -- lost educational time, employers paying for sick days of staff who are home with suffering children, or are suffering themselves.

I'll say it again -- solving climate change via clean energy and clean vehicle technologies will go a long way towards reducing our nation's (and world's) health care costs.

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